There were days that Torn missed Baron Praxis. Life was simple back then. He'd wake up, check the reports that filtered in overnight from various undergrounders and present a daily statement for the Shadow. Life was simple, back then.
Then the boy and his rat arrived and everything turned upside down. Reports generally consisted less of "Torn! Men from the underground have posted subversive graffiti on the Baron's palace!" to "Torn! Jak's blown up another quarter of the city and killed another three dozen Krimson Guard".
Yup. Life was simple back then.
Torn mused on this, barely paying attention to the world around him, until Ashelin jabbed an elbow into his bound and cracked ribs. "Pay attention," she hissed. Torn looked over at her, feeling that strange urge all men got when they saw her say something, but started paying attention anyway.
This was the big day. Jak, the true heir to the city, was to be crowned. Baron Jak! The palace, usually decorated in sombre tones, or with vivid red paint, depending on the current Baron, was done up in festive and bright colours. A nine-piece band was playing, including one band member playing the incredibly difficult to master Precursor Flute that weighed in at about seven tonnes and gave severe Red eco burns to whomever played it. It seemed as if the entire town was here. The lobby of the palace was thronged with people, most of them being held back into their designated civilian zones by blue armoured Freedom Guard.
Torn knew something was going to go wrong.
Not go wrong like some civvy throwing a rock, although some were throwing underwear. No. Something like a Metalhead invasion. Alternatively, maybe Jak turning into Dark Jak and attacking someone (and with that came the memory of being the direct target of Dark Jak Torn still poked his bed with a long stick before settling in for the night.) Something bad. Torn surveyed the crowd from his position on top of the dais out at the front, where he stood as a ceremonial guardian for the teenaged boy that was slowly and stately walking down the aisle. Somewhere in the crowd, Torn could a lady that looked like she could be Krew's big sister trying to throw some of her, and a truer phrase was never spoken, unmentionables onto the aisle near Jak, possibly as a gesture of good will towards the boy, possibly as some form of aerial attack. Either way, four Freedom Guard were engaging her in hand to panties combat, trying to wrest the offending underwear from the grasp of their current owner before she hurt someone.
The music reached its climatic peak as Jak approached the dais. Samos stood there, flanked by Ashelin and Torn on one side, Keira and Tess on the other, waiting to bestow the Crown of Mar upon Jak. Jak looked up at his mentor with that steady blue gaze as the music raised for the dramatic final piece when…
"STOP THIS CHARADE!"
The band stoped playing with a cacophony of broken notes. The Precursor horn player, having inhaled for his last stanza, got blowback and was sucked into the horn up to his ankles. Torn facepalmed, spreading his fingers slightly so one eye could swivel to focus on the intruder. There was only one person who spoke in that fashion. Only one person who could possibly interrupt in this place at this time. Veger. The master Bureaucrat. That bastard.
"I demand you cease immediately!" exclaimed Veger, "This ceremony is entirely without legal backing or merit! I demand you cease immediately!"
Samos' face clouded over like a …cloud, "Explain yourself, Veger… and make it good"
Veger smiled his dry, dusty smile, the sort that taxmen give you when they spot the mistake you made in your income tax statement, "My dear Samos. There is one small fact you are forgetting. While your dislike for Baron Praxis is well known to all present, he was, legally speaking, the true ruler of this city. This…wretch… has no place being crowned."
Samos looked at the offensive bureaucrat with an open mouth and began to speak, but to the surprise of all present, Jak came forwards and spoke.
"No Samos. Let him speak. I don't want anyone to think I'm stealing this city like Praxis did," Jak's voice had that strange, almost rusty sound to it, the sort he got whenever he wasn't screaming out death threats at Metalheads or people who cut him off when he was cruising at pedestrian level. Ashelin shouldered her way forwards, "No. Jak is the true heir," she turned to look Veger straight in the eye, "I know what you're trying to do Veger, it won't work. Even known I am father's only child, I will not take the mantle of Baron." All through the crowd men suddenly felt the urge that all men get when Ashelin spoke, but were too spellbound to actually ask her to do it.
Jak turned to Ashelin, "Let him finish. Let it be seen that I am fair." Torn snorted. The boy was getting into the role already. Throughout the crowd women swooned as Jak's words spread over the crowd. In the silence that followed, nothing could be heard but the muffled screams of four Freedom Guard that had just been crushed by a swooning Krewina. Veger waited a few moments, "Thank you, boy," he turned back to Ashelin, "I'm afraid you are rather mistaken, Ashelin. You had a brother," a collective gasp from the audience, "or should I say Half-brother. A half brother that your father cared about far more than he cared about you, I'm afraid. A half brother named…" The blood ran from Ashelin's face as she breathed, "No…"
"Uh… Veger," Jak asked, "you know… Erol's dead, right? He killed himself. I was there, I can basically swear to it."
Veger laughed; a laugh so dry it only needed an olive on a toothpick to become a Martini, "However, I have here a copy of his last will and testament! A will that nominates Erol's next of kin for all worldly matters, including inheritance, as…" the crowd drew a collective breath as Veger stood there breathless, "as Krew!"
"Um… Veger? I… uh… killed him too."
Vegers grin of triumph was wolfish, predatory, "Indeed! But you didn't count on Krew, as a manoeuvrer to both dodge taxes relating to employees and to cut down on employee payments had legally adopted his bodyguard, Sig, as his son and legal heir!"
Loud. Deafening. Thunderous. Three words that were completely wrong to describe the general atmosphere of the palace grounds. People turned to look at Jak, waiting for an admission of murder against the underworld heavy.
"No… no, I think he's still alive, actually," murmured Jak. Veger pulled out another piece of paper, "Alive? Yes! And currently residing from Spargus, some pathetic settlement in the wastelands. If I may quote, however, from a conversation I recently had with him," Veger cleared his throat, "'I, Sig Hucklebottom, do hereby leave all my legal responsibilities and inheritances to the current owner of the Naughty Ottsel, whoever that is. Now get out of my house, you fucking bureaucrat.' Obviously, that last part, gentleman, is not important to this conversation. But you get the general idea."
On the stage and in the crowd, laughter was spreading. Even the currently reserved Jak was joining in. The strangled cry of "Hucklebottom" occasionally started to rise from the crowd before being drowned with laughter. Aside from Veger, who had no sense of humour, only one person didn't laugh. Samos, rather than joining in the mirth that had beset the rest of the city, went pale.
Veger waited for the laughter to die down and continued, "The current 'owner' of this property is none other than Daxter, an Ottsel! The laws of this city clearly state that property cannot be owned by an animal. Therefore, as a responsible member of the city, I claim all rights to the Naught Ottsel and, therefore, the throne of the city and the title of Baron!"
Gasps ran through the audience as the full meaning of this mans actions sank in. Could it be true? Could Veger really steal the throne to the city as easily as this? In the background, Samos had gotten down on both knees and was beating his head firmly against the ground, murmuring, "Not that… anything but that…"
Daxter looked up at Veger, "Uh, excusing me, your boringness, but I ain't the owner of the Ottsel! The person you're looking for… is… Tess…" Daxters words ran down, as he comprehended what he was saying. As another gasp went through the audience, and a strangled piping emerged from the stricken musician stuffed Precursor horn, all eyes swivelled to see the blonde standing on the platform, one hand raised to her mouth. "Gosh!" she exclaimed.
Nothing could be heard but the slamming of one man's head against the tiles, "Not her… anyone but her…"